Morris and Steedman, 1969-72. 5-storey and basement, square-plan bioengineering department with distinctive full-height ribbed chevron-shaped white reinforced-concrete cladding panels. Part of post-war university campus within an urban setting. Banded bronze-coloured spandrel panels and bronzed 'spectrafloat' glazing between cladding. Entrances with chevron cladding panels to lintels. 2-leaf glazed entrance doors to S elevation; pair of entrances at basement to centre of N elevation, that to left with later timber and glazed entrance door and glazed canopy; pair of entrances to right of W elevation. Aluminium cope. Square-plan plant room to roof, with white galbestos corrugated cladding.
INTERIOR (seen 2011): internal walls predominantly painted aerated concrete blocks. Circulation core to centre of plan including reinforced-concrete straight stair and lift. Painted timber facing to external cladding ducts. Coffered reinforced-concrete floor slab. Double height entrance lobby with ribbed timber gallery at 1st floor. Some late 20th/early 21st century subdivision.
Bronze-coloured 'spectrafloat' glass in timber framed casement windows with top-hopper. Flat bitumous felt roof.
Statement of Special Interest
The Wolfson Centre is a well-detailed and little-altered example of a post-war Modernist educational building by one of Scotland's most eminent architectural practices. The building was designed to accommodate research laboratories, workshop space and offices for the bioengineering department of Strathclyde University. This landmark building is prominently located in the centre of this post-war university campus. The high quality of its design is evidenced in its carefully thought out plan and the crisp, ridged and serrated detailing.
The bioengineering department required a flexible plan-form to accommodate the changing needs of this developing subject. The building was also required to be stable to prevent the delicate experiments undertaken in the building from being disturbed by changes in the external environment. An open plan and heavily damped building is achieved by a central concrete core with 400mm coffered slab floors. Services have been deliberately integrated into the architecture and expressed architectural through the distinctive chevron cladding panels in which the services are housed as well as providing structural stability. The visual expression of integrated services is similar to the work of the American architect, Philip Johnson, whom Morris and Steedman studied under, in particular his Kline Science Centre, Yale Univeristy (1965). Uniform lighting in the Wolfson Centre is achieved by the use of 'spectrafloat' glazing, a solar control glass. Light is also reflected and diffused by the coffered ceilings.
The Wolfson Centre was part of the original masterplan of the University of Strathclyde, following the granting of a Royal Charter in 1964. The origins of the university began in 1796 when Professor John Anderson left instructions in his will for the provision for an institution that was 'founded for the good of mankind and improvement in science'. By the 1890s this institution had developed rapidly and in 1903 built the Royal College building, George Street (see separate listing). The student population continued to grow, particularly following WWII and in the 1950s the area immediately to the N of the Royal College was developed to provide further facilities including a new engineering building, student union and chaplaincy centre. In 1964 the enlarged Royal College was granted the Royal Charter and became the University of Strathclyde. Keen to maintain a presence in city centre the renowned Modernist architect Robert Matthew drew up plans for the expansion of the campus to the E of the Royal College building, to provide additional buildings for science and technology disciplines as well as accommodation for the newly introduced arts and social sciences subjects. This original masterplan has been continually developed as land became available for the campus, following the demolition of tenements and other public and commercial buildings. The University has also acquired and adapted existing building adjacent to the campus for their use, such as the Barony Church and the Ramshorn Theatre (see separate listings).
The Wolfson Foundation gifted £275,000 to fund this new building for bio-engineering. This charity was established in 1955 by Sir Isaac Wolfson, his wife and their son, Leonard (Lord Wolfson of Marylebone) and awards grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education, the arts and humanities.
The practice of Morris and Steedman is recognised as a pioneer of modern architecture in Scotland. James Shepherd Morris (1931-2006) and Robert Russell Steedman (b.1929) both graduated in architecture from Edinburgh School of Art in 1955. They pursued further studies in landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, studying under Philip Johnson. They were much influenced by Johnson and the ideals of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Richard Neutra. They returned to Edinburgh and established their architectural practice in 1957.
Morris and Steedman rose to the forefront of Scottish Modernism with an extraordinary series of bespoke private houses during the 1950s and 60s. These include Avisfield, Edinburgh (designed 1952) and Calderstone, South Lanarkshire (1964), (see separate listings). The practice also gained experience in designing for universities in the mid 1960s and their work includes the University of Edinburgh's Student Centre and Nuffield Staff Houses and the Principal's House at Stirling University (see separate listing).
Listed as part of the University of Strathclyde Review 2010-2012.